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The Prison of Perceptions

Question: how do you connect to this world, this life you have been given and the strangers that cross your path daily – ‘armed’ with only your internal perceptions of what is reality? Perceptions are Projections.

Perceptions are Projections. Yet let’s see if we can unveil the ‘mysteries’ of our minds.


You are seeing this article with your eyes. You are hearing your own voice in your mind as you construct every word on this page (as you read that, you may have begun talking to yourself – don’t worry you’re not alone). Internal language in sentences provoke different emotions. For example, “I’m an idiot”, or, “I will never amount to anything”. While it should be obvious that those could be empty words with no malicious intention, notice how it provoked a form of emotional response to which you internalised and began to process. Think about those words if someone else said them to you when you are in a receptive state (kids are mostly in receptive states).

Our senses are our connection to this world. Sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. It’s how our brain processes and filters the information that is presented to us. For some of us, certain senses may take preference. A musician may have a keener auditory sense than a film junkie who thrives on a strong visual sense.

After an external event has occurred – say a conversation with a stranger, our brain begins to do three things with that information. These three things have to happen to keep us sane.

Deletion: You know when someone says something to you that you remember for days, months, even years, and you try and remember something else during the interaction that took place, but in some cases you can’t remember a single other word said. For me it was a simple sentence I heard over 10-years-ago “Kyle stop taking things so seriously.” This is an example of our brain deleting information – this happens when we selectively pay attention to certain aspects of our experience and not others. Without deletion we would be faced with far too much information for our conscious mind to process.

Distortion:  This is a fun one. Remember playing broken telephone (Chinese whispers) in primary school and having to be the last person who had to repeat what was initially said, and laughing at the hilarity of the sentence which was formulated. This can occur in an argument between person A, let’s call him John and person B, her name is Kate … Hi John and Kate!

John and Kate are fighting over John having forgotten to put the toilet seat down (Silly John). Kate then brings up a subject matter that has nothing to do with the toilet seat (I’m not judging you don’t worry). John is confused because that is not what he said, He never used the words “You are not important” he said, “Kate, don’t wear those jeans because they have a rip in the back” Now, Kate is confused because she heard the words “you are not important” When John was merely stating that there was a rip. A scary truth is once we have distorted the information that has been given to us; we believe it to be true. Our mind has internalised the information, processed it, and it is now our ‘reality’.

Generalization: This occurs when we come to a conclusion based on one or two experiences. These experiences do not even have to be our own! This is a challenging process for all of us; we instantly conclude an ‘image’ of a person’s personality based on their appearance, skin colour, and how they carry themselves. If you don’t, then good on you – also you have lovely rosy tinted glasses on and are due for a fitting. Now obviously I am not advising you to walk through a dodgy part of town and go hug everybody you see at 02:00 in the morning, but a bit of perspective and empathy is all it takes.

I (Terry Elston) have been ‘ripped off’ in the past by at least three people from Pakistan claiming they want to run NLP courses in their country and then trying to get my materials to run they own! Does that make all people from Pakistan liars? And those emails you get from Mr Omobozo asking to give you $2,000,000 into your account. Does that make all Nigerians cheats?

We get group generalised perceptions from our newspapers, media and around the dinner table from our parents/peers. The more we listen without staying in the present to what is fact and not fiction, the more we imprison ourselves into these cells of perceptions.

And the underlying presupposition here is that we do not perceive at all, we project.

That makes things very interesting. What world is out there when we come to our senses and begin to ‘see’ with enquiring eyes? And remember, bearing that  in mind

–  “Whoever you think you are, you are always more than that!”

Perceptions are Projections by Kyle Louw and Terry Elston

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